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Getting Schooled

by Cory Wright / New York Islanders

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Standing at the front of a packed auditorium for Islanders School Day was a little different this year for Kyle Okposo.

Speaking to students at Old Mill Rd Elementary School , Okposo proudly marked his first school day as a parent Wednesday. He’s currently raising a baby girl and the affects of parenthood were evident in his lesson, as Okposo was all smiles and at ease while holding court with the youngsters.

“It’s just the way that you interact with kids, you feel more comfortable talking to them [as a parent],” Okposo said. “You see all different types of personalities and that’s the fun part. I wonder how my daughter is going to be and what she’s going to be like.”

Okposo was paired up with Islanders captain John Tavares and defenseman Johnny Boychuk, as the whole team partnered up and dispersed to local Long Island schools to teach lessons about respect, hard work, nutrition and the importance of education.

Tavares, Okposo and Boychuk hit home on all those points, channeling their life experience to get through to the kids, ranging from kindergarten to sixth grade. A Q-and-A session proved revealing, as Tavares described his favorite subject (geography), while Okposo and Boychuk said their favorite books were the Harry Potter series and The Hobbit, respectively.

“It was very important for the kids to hear that the islanders do enjoy reading and have favorite books,” Kim Goltermann, the Assistant to the Principle at Old Mill, said. “They need to know that sports professionals aren’t just playing ice hockey all of the time. That they can sit back and read a book. It’s important to know and it’s encouraging and motivating for them to hear.”

The blue-and-orange-clad students at Old Mill looked up at their heroes and hung on every word. The teachers were appreciative to have such influential speakers spread the right message to their kids.

You see all different types of personalities and that’s the fun part. I wonder how my daughter is going to be and what she’s going to be like.Kyle Okposo

As Okposo now knows, kids have short attention spans, so keeping them engaged is half the battle to getting through to them.

“The Q and A portion is definitely easier to get them involved, you’re not just preaching to them or talking at them,” Okposo said. “When they get to ask the questions they get really into it and it’s easier for us to.”

Questions ranged from hockey, to video games, to favorite teachers and everything in between. Then the kids lined up for autographs, capping off a memorable morning on Long Island.

“You see them at the rink all the time cheering us on, so to be able to interact off the ice is a lot of fun,” Tavares said. “They really enjoy it and you can see how enthusiastic they are.”

For the kids, Islanders School Day gave an up-close look at their heroes. For Okposo, whose daughter is a few years away from her first classes, School Day offered a new perspective on what’s to come.

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